I've been enjoying this discussion over at Shakesville, even as I've found myself disagreeing with some of the responses. Robin Williams is a "great actor"? No way. Red Dragon was not a terrible movie? Blasphemy!
So that's got me wondering-- who or what do you think is completely overrated? Who or what do other people love, but you can't stand? Let's make a list.
1) Who would you say is an overrated actor?
2) What would you say in an overrated movie?
3) Who would you say in an overrated author?
4) What would you say is an overrated book?
5) Who or what else needs to be taken down a peg?
Okay. My answers:
1) My first impulse is to say Robin Williams, but-- in fact-- the correct answer is Tom Hanks. Seriously-- how many nostalgic, feel-good movies about kind-hearted American men do we need? I mean, if he'd make a Bachelor Party 2, I'd totally stand in line for those tickets. But Forest Gump? The Green Mile? From the Earth to the Moon? Bah.
2) Mystic River. No question. And I'm a big Clint Eastwood fan, too, but this movie just sucked. Sean Penn got an academy award for screaming and chewing scenery for two hours? Brilliant!
3) This one's kinda tough. There are some writers-- like Neil Gaiman-- who probably don't deserve the cult-like devotion they receive from their fans, but I wouldn't necessarily say they're overrated in general. Some people really like genre writers like Stephen King, John Grisham, Brad Meltzer, and Dan Brown, but few people really regard them as "writers" as much as "idea mills."
I think I'm going to say Chuck Klosterman for this one. It's not that I "can't stand" Chuck Klosterman, but I just find him completely underwhelming. While most essayists will write an essay about pop culture that actually reveals something more significant about the larger culture, Klosterman's content to write essays about, say, sitcoms that are just about sitcoms. Again, there's no crime in simple-minded writing, but so many people-- usually students, but the occasional reviewer or colleague too-- keep trying to insist that Klosterman is somehow better or more significant than he actually is.
4) The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. Didion at her best is insightful and reflective, bur this book, sad as its subject matter is, doesn't come close to the brilliance of The White Album or Slouching Towards Bethlehem. It seems to me that most people were quick to rave about this book solely because they felt bad about all that she had to endure, and overlooked the fact that the writing is surprisingly weak.
5) Rudy Giuliani. Robin Williams. Jimmy Fallon. Fall Out Boy. John McCain. Aaron Sorkin. The American version of The Office. Dennis Leary. Dead Poets Society. Joel Osteen. Ron Paul. Michael Moore. Mike Myers. Ron Howard (but not on Arrested Development). People who put environmentally-themed bumper stickers on their SUVs. The Pope. William Bradley. Ed Burns.
Keep an eye out tomorrow for a more positive list of people and things who are underrated.